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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2383

A. Lawrence Lowell papers concerning the Sacco and Vanzetti case


Papers collected by Harvard University president A. Lawrence Lowell as a member of the 1927 advisory committee (the "Lowell Commission") for Massachusetts governor Alvan T. Fuller's clemency review of the sentences of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.


  • Creation: 1921-1927


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


2 linear feet (2 boxes)

Includes: complete typescript carbon of the 1921 trial and motion for new trial transcripts, prepared for A. Lawrence Lowell for his work on the Lowell advisory commission; two copies of the committee proceedings of July 14-21, 1927; letters from Governor Alvan T. Fuller to Lowell conveying documents and outlining the commission work; two telegrams from Sacco and Vanzetti supporters sent to the committee; and other transcripts from the first trial.

Biographical / Historical

On April 15, 1920, Frederick Albert Parmenter (1874-1920) and Alessandro Berardelli (d.1920) carried a factory payroll of $15,776 through the main street of South Braintree, Massachusetts, when two men shot at them. The gunmen took the money and ran away with a gang of possibly four or five. Both payroll guards were left mortally wounded. Two Italian immigrant anarchists, Nicola Sacco (1891-1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (1888-1927), fell into a police trap set for another suspect in this crime. They were held, indicted, and eventually went to trial for robbery and murder. The trial was held at Dedham, in the Superior Court of Massachusetts for Norfolk County, May 31-July 14, 1921. This case quickly became one of America's most complicated and notorious political trials. On July 14, 1921, the two men were found guilty of robbery and murder, but the legal struggle to save them extended until 1927.

By April 9, 1927, all appeals in the Massachusetts courts had failed and the men were sentenced to death. Great national and international pressure was brought on Alvan T. Fuller, the governor of Massachusetts, to consider the question of executive clemency for the two men. Fuller appointed a three person advisory committee, the "Lowell Commission," so-called because the most prominent member was A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard University. Other members of the committee were Judge Robert A. Grant and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Samuel Stratton. In its report of July 27, 1927, the committee decided that clemency was not warranted and the governor refused to commute the sentences. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on August 23, 1927.

On August 23, 1977, Michael S. Dukakis, Governor of Massachusetts, issued a proclamation that did not pardon Sacco and Vanzetti but declared "that any stigma and disgrace should be forever removed from the names of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, from the names of their families and descendants..."


Arranged alphabetically by author.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Gift of A. Lawrence Lowell, of Cambridge; received: 1931 November 5; Recataloged from: Soc 3009.16.35*, Soc 3009.16.40*, and Soc 3009.16.55.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Lowell, A. Lawrence (Abbott Lawrence), 1856-1943. A. Lawrence Lowell papers concerning the Sacco and Vanzetti case, 1921-1927: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

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